Sophomore Seminars

Comparative Fictions of Ethnicity

Please note: Due to Sophomore demand, COMPLIT 51Q will be offered a second time in 2021-22, in Spring Quarter!
Completion of PWR 1 or other WR 1 course.

As social creatures, we may know "who" we "are." How does our sense of self shape our interactions with those around us? How does literature provide a particular medium not only for self-expression but also for meditations on the construction of the self? Don't we tell stories in response to the question, "Who are you?" We give our lives flesh and blood when telling how we process the world. How does this universal question ("Who am I?") change when we add the qualifier "ethnically" before it? A key part of understanding ethnicity is that it is relational, defined against another ethnicity, and that it never stands alone; it helps us diagnose larger social and historical issues. Another key point is that of relationship changes within historical movements: they are not entirely static or natural, and neither is our sense of who and what we are. We will embark upon an inquiry into both the formal and aesthetic properties of literary works and their location in our social, political, cultural, and personal lives. We will explore how identity, national character, ethnicity, and gender evolved to become central to our sense of ourselves. This course is especially designed to build your writing and oral presentation skills. Writing is a mode of thinking. Polishing your writing goes hand in hand with making you a more critical and imaginative thinker.

This course fulfills the second-level Writing and Rhetoric Requirement (WRITE 2) and emphasizes oral and multimedia presentation.

Meet the Instructor(s)

David Palumbo-Liu

David Palumbo-Liu

"I have been teaching at Stanford for nearly 30 years, and came here from a very different kind of campus--Berkeley. I grew up in the late 60s and 70s and have an inordinate love for music of that era. In terms of scholarship I have published books on classical Chinese poetry, contemporary Asian/America, "global" literature, and am writing a book on political voice. In terms of "public writing" I have written for the Washington Post, The Guardian, Jacobin, Al Jazeera, Truthout, Vox, Salon, AlterNet, and others. You will usually find me at the gym 4-5 days a week.", @palumboliu